View from the round tower west over the south range and keep – the rock-cut ditch dividing the bailey can be seen running left to right

Dolforwyn Castle, Abermule, Montgomeryshire, sits on the very furthest southern extent of convenient day trips with kids. Recently, I had my first visit and it was a memorable one. One might be forgiven for missing the signposts from the A483 but do not be put off by the low-key advertising and steep climb.

View from the round tower west over the north range and the d-shaped tower and well

There is a small carpark and despite the incline, it is a relatively even walk up to the hill-top. The castle site has received excavations by Lawrence Butler reported in Archaeologia Cambrensis for 1990 although the environs of the castle have received limited investigation.

The castle was fortified by Llywelyn ap Gruffudd in 1273 and a small town grew on the ridge to the castle’s west. It was built against Gwynedd’s rivals in Powys and Roger Mortimer’s base at Montgomery.  Taken in 1277 as part of Edward I’s invasion of Wales, it was given to the Mortimers who repaired and improved it but it lay ruinous by the end of the 14th century.

The castle consists of a significant enterprise in itself: the levelling of the hill-top to allow for a regular design. The rectangular curtain wall linked together three components: a rectangular keep to the west, a round tower to the east, and a D-shaped tower to the north. The principal ranges of buildings were on the northern side.

Excavations revealed evidence of the siege of the castle which was surrendered when water ran out, namely stone balls thrown from siege weaponry.

An interesting feature is the N-S rock-cut ditch running through the castle that may have offered some kind of internal spatial division between east and west.

Another interesting feature is the stone pillar that supported the central hearth in the hall in the north-east quadrant of the castle.

However, the most striking feature is however the well dug over 6 m into the bedrock and retained a section of its vaulted cover. The well was possibly as part of the English improvements to ensure the castle had a reliable water supply.

The heritage boards are worthy of note; the first one encounters by the western entrance is particularly memorable, with a vivid bird’s eye view of the English siege of the castle in 1277 and the others offer reconstructed external views and cut-away views of the castle at its height.

Looking east over the northern range from the d-shaped tower
The monumental pillar that supported the hall’s central fireplace in the north range
The d-shaped tower on the northern side of the curtain wall
The round tower at the castle’s eastern end
The rock-cut ditch to the castle’s west, originally linking it to the fledgling Welsh town
View over the northern range looking east
The curtain wall to the north
The fabulous well with vaulted roof
The intriguing rock-cut ditch dividing the bailey in two
Looking out over the landscape to the south
The steep angle to the car park illustrates clearly the defensible nature of the hill-top
Heritage board explaining the close proximity of Dolforwyn to rivals to the east
Explaining the appearance of the castle in the late 13th century
A superb cut-away view of the castle
The artist’s impression of the western approach to the castle under siege